There is a way for Democrats to convince Republicans to abandon the Taxpayer Protection Pledge they’ve all signed with Americans for Tax Reform. But first they must do three things: 1) go to school on what motivates Republicans on taxes, 2) show some humility and 3) show some patience.
Wolf Blitzer did none of these things in the Presidential debate in November. He asked Rick Perry and Rick Santorum whether they would accept $1 in tax increases for $10 in spending cuts. Right then and there on national television he wondered aloud why they wouldn’t raise taxes and end the “gridlock.” If Blitzer had taken a few minutes to drill down and learn why the TPP is so popular with the GOP, he never would have asked such a silly question.
As Ann Coulter has pointed out, “For Americans who are unaware of the Democrats history of reneging on their promises to cut spending in return for tax hikes, the Republicans’ opposition to tax increases does seem crazy.” Republicans weren’t born philosophically opposed to all tax increases at all times. The problem is they’ve been burned repeatedly in the past. As Grover Norquist told the Simpson Bowles Commission, “In 1982 President Reagan and Congressional Democrats agreed on a plan that promised to cut $3 in spending for every $1 in tax hikes. All the tax hikes went through. Spending, though, grew from $808 billion in 1983 to 1.06 trillion in 1988. In 1990, President Bush and Congressional Democrats agreed on a plan that promised to cut $2 in spending for every $1 in tax hikes. All the tax hikes went through (including a hike in the top income rate). Spending, though, grew from 1.25 trillion in 1990 to 1.52 trillion in 1995.”
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on my descendants to the 3rd and 4th generations.
As any salesman knows, to make a sale you must anticipate and overcome the customer’s objections. If Blitzer were a fox and not a Wolf, he might have posed this question: “Democrats have lied in the past when promising to cut spending. They fooled the Gipper in 1982. They conned Bush in 1990. But what if the Democrats passed and ENACTED sizeable and significant spending cuts FIRST? What if they closed down the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy and Interior and auctioned off the buildings? Then, would you consider raising taxes?”
The problem is Democrats don’t think they need to make the first move. They think the pledge is going to wither away. Last October, the New York Times ran a headline that said “Tax Pledges Lose Allure as Eyes Turn to Reform.” The article went on to say “while some pledges, like marriage vows, may always carry weight, strict anti-tax pledges may be losing some of their sheen.” Unfortunately for the Times, the pledge seems to be getting more popular. In June of 2010 Norquist spoke of 173 Representatives and 33 Senators on board. Today there are 238 Representatives and 41 Senators on board. Only six GOP House Reps and seven GOP senators have not signed the pledge. What’s that? They got Lugar? Six GOP Senators.
Democrats are going to need to come to Grover hat in hand. They are going to have to confess their past deceits. They are going to have to wait for real spending cuts to happen before they can collect on their tax increases. In this age of Solyndra and GSA spending scandals, the Republicans aren’t going to raise taxes unless they got an offer too juicy to refuse. Your move Mr. President.